CAMPAIGNERS are calling on council bosses and the Ministry of Defence to abandon plans to build homes on a former firing range in a bid to save Essex’s largest population of rare birds. 

Friends of Middlewick members have once again demanded proposals for 1,000 properties on Middlewick Ranges be scrapped over fears the development could destroy habits used by nightingales. 

According to the group, surveys have revealed a large nightingale population calls the ranges and its surroundings their home. 

Protestors gathered at the site while taking part in the Jane’s Walks Colchester walking series and once again appealed to Colchester Council and the MoD to reconsider. 

Martin Pugh, senior ecologist and Friends of Middlewick spokesman, said: "We are currently undertaking nightingale surveys which show Middlewick Ranges, and surrounding areas impacted by the development plans, to be the largest nightingale population in the county - and one of the largest in the country. 

Gazette: Site - Middlewick Ranges in ColchesterSite - Middlewick Ranges in Colchester

“And yet this is still currently threatened by the prospect of noise, pollution, lighting, footfall and domestic dogs and cats up to 1,000 houses would entail.  

“With new records constantly emerging we feel both the MoD and Colchester Council have the perfect opportunity now to rethink these plans and remove this threat for good; and be known as the organisations which cherished and protected the nightingales of Middlewick rather than the reverse." 

Resident and founding member of the Save the Wick campaign, Beryl Cox, added: “I step foot on Middlewick and a thousand memories come flooding back and I feel a calmness I never feel anywhere else. 

Gazette: Campaign - Friends of Middlewick and Save the Wick are fighting to save the county's largest nightingale populationCampaign - Friends of Middlewick and Save the Wick are fighting to save the county's largest nightingale population (Image: Martin Pugh)

“To even think about this wildlife haven being built on and destroyed is abhorrent and heartbreaking. To destroy wildlife, birds, insects, many of which are rare and on the 'red' list is unthinkable and must not be allowed to happen.” 

In total 80 campaigners gathered for the Save Middlewick walk, holding up posters of the 1,800 different species which are threatened under the plans

A spokesman for Colchester Council said: “We acknowledge the ongoing surveys by the Friends of Middlewick group and appreciate their dedication to the area's wildlife.

“We are committed to a thorough Local Plan Review process that includes a re-appraisal of the land's appropriate use, incorporating independent ecological expertise. This will include assessments of recent ecological submissions and multi-season field work.

“We understand the concerns regarding potential impact on wildlife, including nightingales. The independent ecological report will be a key factor considered by the Local Plan Committee when determining the future of the Ranges.

“We are currently finalising a comprehensive response to the initial ecological reports, incorporating all relevant information and perspectives. This response will be released at the appropriate time as part of the evidence base for the Local Plan Review.

“In the meantime, our ecological consultants have begun botanical and invertebrate surveys across various seasons to ensure a complete environmental picture.

“We encourage continued public engagement in the Local Plan Review process. Residents can submit their views on the future of the Middlewick Ranges through the designated channels."